Arlie Reads Some More in 2024 (Thread 1)

Discussão75 Books Challenge for 2024

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Arlie Reads Some More in 2024 (Thread 1)

1ArlieS
Jan 1, 6:26 pm

I'm Arlie, a retired software engineer, about to start my fourth year of the 75 books challenge. I'm Canadian, but live in California, USA, where I moved in pursuit of career opportunity in 1997. My household consists of two retired adults and one aging dog. We also feed an ever changing menagerie of stray and feral cats.

I read about 60:40 fiction and non-fiction; the former mostly SF/Fantasy, and the latter mostly science and history, with sprinklings of biography, economics, politics, and whatever else catches my fancy.

I wish everyone a happy year of reading.

2ArlieS
Editado: Jan 16, 6:51 pm

Goals and Structure

1. Participate in the War Room Challenge (January thread at https://www.librarything.com/topic/356820)
2. Dip into the Nonfiction Challenge from time to time: https://www.librarything.com/topic/356227
3. Make progress with unread books I already own, as well as reading new discoveries and books from my virtual TBR list.
4. Get most books from libraries, rather than purchasing them. If I must purchase books, try to buy them second hand.
5. Actually read something in French this year, or in German. Even a reread of a graphic novel would be better than nothing.

3ArlieS
Editado: Jan 4, 12:53 pm

My rules

The whole book must have been read, part of the reading must have happened in 2024, and I can't count the same read for multiple years - it's either 2024 or 2025, not both, unless I read it twice.

When rereading a book that has a large excerpt from some other book at the end, as a teaser for something else by the same author or publisher, I don't have to reread the teaser to count as having reread the book, even if the page count includes the teaser.

My Rating System

5. Excellent. Read this now!
4.5. Very Good. If fiction, well worth rereading; if non-fiction, I learned a lot.
4. Very good, but not quite 4.5. If fiction, likely reread; if non-fiction, I learned a lot.
3. Decent read, but not special in any way.
2.5 Why did I bother finishing this?
2. Did not finish.
1. Ran screaming, and you should too.

5ArlieS
Editado: Jan 1, 6:41 pm

2023 Statistics 1

Total books: 147

Fiction: 87
Non-fiction: 60

First Time: 121
Reread: 26 (imprecise; there were books I wasn't sure about)

Male author: 114
Female author: 58 (one transwoman)
(Total > 147 because some books have multiple authors)

Total pages read: 49,219
Average pages per book: 334.8

Library Books: 97 (18 inter-library loan)
Owned Books: 50 (13 recent purchases)

6ArlieS
Editado: Jan 1, 6:41 pm

2023 Statistics 2

Fiction Genres:
alternate history: 2
fantasy: 22
historical fiction: 5
historical mystery: 1
mystery: 26
science fiction: 29
thriller: 2

Non-fiction Genres:
biography: 3
bridge: 2
built environment: 1
economics: 3
foreign affairs: 1
geopolitics: 1
history: 15
philosophy: 2
politics: 7
popular social science: 1
practical self help: 1
predicted future: 1
science: 17
social science: 3
technology: 2

Author Nationality:
Canada: 11
Czechoslovakia: 2
France: 1
Germany: 1
New Zealand: 1
South Korea: 1
United Kingdom: 51
United States: 103

Any author who wrote more than one of the books I read this year is counted once per book. (The same is true for author gender statistics in the prior post.)

Copyright Decade:
1950-1959: 8
1960-1969: 14
1970-1979: 6
1980-1989: 6
1990-1999: 16
2000-2009: 22
2010-2019: 25
2020-2023: 47

7ArlieS
Editado: Fev 2, 5:17 pm

Books Completed Jan 2024

1. In the Heart of Darkness by Eric Flint and David Drake (reread)
2. Ancient sea reptiles : plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs, mosasaurs, and more by Darren Naish
3. The Bronze Lie: Shattering the Myth of Spartan Warrior Supremacy by Myke Cole
4. Destiny's Shield by Eric Flint and David Drake (reread)
5. Enough : the phony leaders, dead-end movements, and culture of failure that are undermining Black America-- and what we can do about it by Juan Williams
6. Fortune's Stroke by Eric Flint and David Drake (reread)
7. The cat's meow : how cats evolved from the Savanna to your sofa by Jonathan B. Losos
8. Organizing for the rest of us : 100 realistic strategies to keep any house under control by Dana K. White
9. Persian fire : the first world empire and the battle for the West by Tom Holland
10. The Tide of Victory by Eric Flint and David Drake (reread)
11. Moon of the crusted snow : a novel by Waubgeshig Rice
12. Eve : how the female body drove 200 million years of human evolution by Cat Bohannon
13. Defensive Signaling at Bridge by David Lyster Bird
14. 151935::The Dance of Time by Eric Flint and David Drake (reread)
15. Roman warfare by Adrian Keith Goldsworthy
16. Astérix et les Normands by R. Goscinny and Albert Uderzo

9ArlieS
Jan 1, 6:28 pm

Books Completed Mar 2024

10ArlieS
Jan 1, 6:28 pm

Books Completed Apr 2024

11ArlieS
Jan 1, 6:28 pm

Books Pearl Ruled in 2024

12ArlieS
Jan 1, 6:29 pm

Spare

13ArlieS
Jan 1, 6:29 pm

Come on in; the kettle is boiling and the books are great!

14quondame
Jan 1, 7:25 pm

Hi Arlie!

Wishing you a great one!

15drneutron
Jan 1, 7:43 pm

Welcome back, Arlie!

16Tess_W
Jan 1, 7:47 pm

Good luck with your 2024 reading!

17FAMeulstee
Jan 2, 4:44 am

Happy reading in 2024, Arlie!

18richardderus
Jan 2, 6:56 pm

Merry 2024, Arlie. May it present us all with the gift of being surprisingly dull.

19Berly
Jan 2, 8:50 pm



And Happy New Year!!

20ArlieS
Jan 3, 5:22 am

21ArlieS
Jan 3, 5:37 am

1. In the Heart of Darkness by Eric Flint and David Drake

My first book completed this year was a reread of the second volume of the Belisarius alternate history series which I started rereading in December.

I like to have something lightweight and entertaining to read when I'm still waking up or otherwise not up for anything challenging. I'm fond of stories of great generals, admirals etc. and their successful wars. Historical fiction is especially attractive, if the context is more or less accurate - alternate history works similarly, at least for stories near the point where the histories diverge. So this series hits the spot for me.

Statistics:
- fiction, alternate history, series (not first), 1998
- Author 1 (Eric Flint): male, American, born 1947, novelist, author and/or editor of my #3, #34 and #145 for 2023
- Author 2 (David Drake): male, American, born in 1945, novelist , author and/or editor of my #5, #7, #9 and #145 for 2023
- English, own shelves, 463 pages, 3 stars
- read Dec 28 2023-Jan 2, 2024, book previously read

22PaulCranswick
Jan 3, 11:09 am

Happy new year, Arlie.

Star dropped. xx

23richardderus
Jan 3, 11:44 am

>21 ArlieS: I bought a bunch of the Belisarius books, but waited until the series was complete to start them...so they disappeared, and now I need to reacquire or borrow them. Sitll undecided....

Wednesday orisons, Arlie.

24karenmarie
Jan 4, 7:43 am

Hi Arlie and happy new year to you!

>2 ArlieS: Love your goals. Good luck with them.

>3 ArlieS: Excellent rules. About the only thing I do differently is to only count the actual pages I’ve read. If it includes a preface or introduction or preface or afterward or whatever then I include that, otherwise I literally look at the last page of a book or last page + the other stuff. I don’t count teasers.

25ronincats
Jan 4, 10:15 am

Happy New Year, Arlie!

26ArlieS
Jan 4, 1:05 pm

>22 PaulCranswick: >24 karenmarie: >25 ronincats: Welcome to my thread.

>23 richardderus: They are worth tracking down, if you like that sort of thing.

27ArlieS
Editado: Jan 15, 4:38 pm

2. Ancient sea reptiles : plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs, mosasaurs, and more by Darren Naish

This is a book about the marine reptiles of the Mesozoic Era: Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. It's an example of a type of science book I've only recently noticed: somewhat of a catalog of creatures, arranged by scientific grouping, with lots of illustrations. Another example of this type of book would be Bees of the World A Guide to Every Family by Laurence Packer, which I read last year.

They tend fairly dry - lots of details on scientific names, and minutiae like precise details of skull shape. Reading them often feels like trying to drink from a firehose. But I learn a lot, even if it's only a very small proportion of the information on offer.

This is a fairly good example of the genre, regularly rising above dryness, and without succumbing to trying to make science interesting by talking instead about scientists, especially in the non-professional parts of their life.

I read it because of a recommendation from LibraryThing's new recommendation system - not AFAIK one of their top 2000 for me, just one of the once-a-week batches of additions, probably the one from Oct 25, 2023.

Statistics:
- non-fiction, biology, series: n/a, 2022
- Author: male, British, born 1975, scientist (research associate at University of Southampton) and science communicator, author not previously read
- English, public library, 191 pages, 3.5 stars
- read Dec 28 2023-Jan 4 2024, book not previously read

28ArlieS
Editado: Jan 6, 1:31 am

3. The Bronze Lie: Shattering the Myth of Spartan Warrior Supremacy by Myke Cole

I read this book for the War Room challenge, January edition.

This book is devoted to demonstrating that the Spartans were not super-warriors, and were also not especially prone to self-abnegation, prioritizing the interests of their polis ahead of their own personal interests. Instead, they were more or less ordinary on both of these dimensions, losing more battles than they won, fleeing and surrendering as readily as any other group, accepting bribes as readily as their neighbours, and often putting internal competition ahead of the needs of their polis. They were, perhaps, somewhat better than average at hoplite combat - phalanx vs phalanx, on nice open level ground - but made up for this by weaknesses in cavalry and ships.

The purpose of this exercise is not scoring academic points and perhaps gaining tenure, as I'd expected. Nope, it's to combat an ongoing myth seen as still motivating American political factions in modern times.

To me, this felt rather like tilting at windmills. Sure there's a Spartan myth, giving rise to names of sports teams, not to mention other trademarks. But there are lots of myths out there; few are seriously believed even by random well-read individuals, never mind by serious students of the relevant subjects. And if some right-wing Americans who currently express their desired improvements to US society in terms of Spartans were to cease to believe Spartans lived up to their myth, they'd just find or invent a new expression of their ideal society.

The book progresses through Spartan history, describing battles, and also every kind of dishonorable behaviour going. Wins and losses are tabulated, along with surrenders, routs, and more controlled retreats. Spartan behaviour is compared with their expressed ideals, and usually falls short. The result, unfortunately, is just a bit boring; the "laundry list" approach to history generally is.

The author also fails to account for Sparta's power, relative to large numbers of other polis. They spent a large part of their history as the head of a league with other polis as subordinate allies, mostly rather than the other way round. How did they manage that, if they were merely ordinarily capable? I can imagine explanations not rooted in military capability, let alone in selflessness - but the author essentially fails to address this criticism at all, while glorying in the later period when Sparta was forced to be a subordinate ally in someone else's league.

He also describes hoplite combat in ways seriously inconsistent with some of my other reading. I don't know who's correct, but he appears not to have heard of the alternate opinion.

That said, it's a decent book. The author uses footnotes and bibliography. He routinely points out "we aren't sure what happened here, and may never know", followed by "but her's the explanation that makes most sense to me".

It's just not a great book.

Statistics:
- non-fiction, history, series: n/a, 2021
- Author: male, American, age unknown, novelist (per wikipedia; bio in book is more interesting), author not previously read
- English, inter-library loan, 464 pages, 3 stars
- read Dec 21 2023-Jan 4 2024, book not previously read

29atozgrl
Jan 9, 6:56 pm

Hello, Arlie, and happy new year to you. I'm dropping a star. Here's to a great year of reading!

30ArlieS
Jan 11, 1:05 pm

>29 atozgrl: Welcome aboard, and same wishes to you.

31ArlieS
Jan 11, 1:38 pm

4. Destiny's Shield by Eric Flint and David Drake

This is volume 3 of the Belisarius alternate history series, which I'm rereading when stressed or not entirely awake.

I can't think of much to say about this volume that isn't a spoiler, that I haven't already said in about earlier volumes in 75-er threads.

Read it if you like stories of successful war and intrigue, with lots of characters who are much smarter and/or better at their trade than average, but not quite into the superhuman range. Read it if you like stories set in an at least somewhat plausible past in times and places not commonly written about in English, particularly not in fiction.

Statistics:
- fiction, alternate history, series (not first), 1998
- Author 1 (Eric Flint): male, American, born 1947, novelist, author of my #1 for this year
- Author 2 (David Drake): male, American, born in 1945, novelist , author of my #1 for this year
- English, own shelves, 568 pages, 4 stars
- read Jan 2-8, 2024, book previously read

32ArlieS
Editado: Jan 11, 8:37 pm

5. Enough : the phony leaders, dead-end movements, and culture of failure that are undermining Black America-- and what we can do about it by Juan Williams

I once again read an older political book, for the perspective it could give on current events. This is a critique of the priorities of black American activists of 2006, and of the behaviour of some black people. The author is Hispanic, rather than black, but presents himself as basically echoing a critique from Bill Cosby, who is black.

Cosby - and Williams - want black people, particularly the poorest, to work hard to improve their situation, rather than either giving up and living in the present, or focussing entirely on a 100% solution for structural and other racism. Their message is something like "you face fewer hurdles than black Americans before you; you betray those who fought for those improvements if you simply give up and/or wait to be rescued."

The specifics are bog-standard conservative. Get the best possible education, and see that your children do the same. Don't have children young; don't get married too young; don't have children out of wedlock; do get married. In local politics, push for better schools in neighborhoods where you live. If you have children, strengthen your relationship to them, whether or not you are married to their other parent. Learn to speak standard English, and make sure your kids do too. Prioritize improved education for your children ahead of consumer goods for them.

And on the negative side: glorifying gangsters is bad. Referring to women as sex objects (whores etc.) or treating them that way is bad. Rap has gone from reasonable protest songs to something that glorifies everything young black kids should not be doing. It's not "white" to study or to stay in school; in fact you owe it to those who came before to take advantage of the liberties they won.

There's no attention to the question of whether a desperately poor black boy has any real chance of bettering himself, rather than winding up either dead or in jail. It's just presumed that his chances are good enough to be worth the effort, not to mention better than the chances his ancestors might have had as slaves. (There's some research suggesting the odds of success are very bad, whatever the effort; I don't know how reliable it is. My point is that this possibility is never mentioned.)

I'm sympathetic to parts of this critique. Why wait for perfection, if you can do something to help yourself and your children before perfection arrives? Why see yourself as in need of rescuing from outside, rather than capable of doing at least something for yourself? And why have all one's leaders singing from the same hymnal - in this case, combatting systemic racism - rather than having some trying to improve schools, others working on self-help groups, and others trying to e.g. help the casualties of the current system (e.g. employment for ex-convicts)?

But OTOH - 18 years later, "it's hopeless" appears to be the theme song of most youth, black, white, or purple. Climate change will get us all. And even if it doesn't, well, if you aren't in the 1% - and can't get into the elite schools that might give you a path to the 1% - you can expect a life of precarious underemployment, lousy health care, and an early death - with your children most likely having it even worse than you do. And that's true even if you stay in school, get a college degree or even a graduate degree - that may give you better prospects than the dropout, but also far more debt - and your prospects still won't be good, just a bit less bad.

I can't say that I know for sure that they are wrong. I suspect I'm in the last American generation where some non-one-percenters will be able to afford to retire. (In my parents' generation, even the (unionized?) working class could expect a livable pension. But my generation got told "let them eat 401Ks", and the results were not good. Also, of course, unions got basically broken.)

People will adapt, and develop new ideas of what is normal, and what is adequate, just as they always have. But the prospects of those currently young look pretty dismal to me, or to anyone raised with the expectations of their grandparents or even their parents.

Are (some of them) wrong to "eat, drink, and be merry" rather than trying to invest for the future, whether their own or that of their children? We criticize people who buy lottery tickets, which are extremely unlikely to pay off for them. How unlikely does it have to be for education to pay off, before we stop criticizing people who don't invest in it?

But of course I'm saying that as a retiree with a degree from an elite university, who went from "eligible for welfare" as child to "made too much to get covid relief money" as a working adult. So what I'm really saying is that I'm not going to blame people who pick a strategy different from mine, even though mine happened to work well in the specific conditions where I used it. Maybe they are right. But OTOH, maybe they aren't, and I'd rather see both viewpoints presented, particularly to those at the point of deciding what they personally will do.

And on the third hand: I'm white. I don't get to have an opinion about anything involving black people. It's foolish (or worse) of me to think my experience of poverty, or of oppression (e.g. as a woman) gives me any insight into the experiences of black people min the United States. Or so I've been told a lot recently, and believe to be part of the current "received wisdom" of most black spokespeople.

Meanwhile, it's interesting to read opinions from a black person (Cosby, via Williams) singing from a different hymnal.

Statistics:
- non-fiction, politics, series: n/a, 2006
- Author: male, American, born 1954, journalist, author not previously read
- English, public library, 243 pages, 3.5 stars
- read Jan 5-10, 2024, book not previously read

33drneutron
Jan 12, 7:12 pm

Nice review, interesting thoughts. I resonate with pretty much everything you’ve said. And don’t have any answers.

34richardderus
Jan 14, 9:06 am

>28 ArlieS: Myke Cole, while not a guy I can like as a man, knows his stuff about ancient wars. His writing is above average, and that is not nothin' in this area of discussion so dominated by droning voices and stunted imaginations.

35richardderus
Jan 14, 9:34 am

>32 ArlieS: I'm white. I don't get to have an opinion about anything involving black people. It's foolish (or worse) of me to think my experience of poverty, or of oppression (e.g. as a woman) gives me any insight into the experiences of black people min the United States. Or so I've been told a lot recently, and believe to be part of the current "received wisdom" of most black spokespeople.

Meanwhile, it's interesting to read opinions from a black person (Cosby, via Williams) singing from a different hymnal.


This is an issue I run into a lot as a man...no ideas about women are allowed...a white man...no ideas about those not white are allowed...and a gay man...you are too old to know what it feels like today. This is a very nasty form of thought control made dominant in discourse by the reactionaries encouraging the who owns what paradigm that keeps us all squabbling while the looters make off with their pilf.

Frustratingly I do not know what the effective response to it is, but it is making the conversations we need to have damn near impossible to start, still less develop productively.

36ArlieS
Editado: Jan 14, 3:45 pm

>35 richardderus: Two answers here, one more cynical than the other.

A) The first step is not trying to converse with those enforcing those rules. They are clearly true Believers (TM), unlikely to communicate anything you can't already get by reading their particular version of the Wholely Babble, probably a relatively recent book you can find in a library section devoted variously to feminist, anti-racist, or queer political theorizing.

Unfortunately, many of these enforcers also butt in on conversations conducted among those who don't subscribe to their particular theology. Sometimes you are better off not discussing such matters on the internet, let alone in a workplace.

B) It's worth checking, in any particular case, whether your own lack of relevant lived experience is in fact showing, particularly if the person making this claim is someone generally reasonable, and not a rando or (worse) someone who makes their living teaching e.g. ally-ship seminars. Sometimes you really are falling over an unknown (to you) unknown, or misjudging an issue's importance to particular individuals.

37ArlieS
Jan 14, 3:42 pm

>33 drneutron: Questions are so much easier than answers.

38richardderus
Jan 14, 3:56 pm

>36 ArlieS: The habit of checking for prejudice and, or, privilege is an excellent one to instill. No one gets it right all the time. It is really the ones who butt in that give me the most online trouble, but that comes with speaking in public and really always has.

The issue of self censorship is then the vexatious corollary. Not opining upon the passing scene is more and more the only path to a quiet online life. I just do not inteact with the people I live among...they tend toward MAGAtry.

39ArlieS
Jan 15, 4:22 pm

6. Fortune's Stroke by Eric Flint and David Drake

This is volume 4 of the Belisarius alternate history series, which I'm rereading when stressed or not entirely awake. It continues to be fun, and funny, and if it's implausible in all kinds of ways, I guess I'll forgive it.

Statistics:
- fiction, alternate history, series (not first), 2000
- Author 1 (Eric Flint): male, American, born 1947, novelist, author of my #1 and #4 for this year
- Author 2 (David Drake): male, American, born in 1945, novelist , author of my #1 and #4 for this year
- English, own shelves, 503 pages, 3.5 stars
- read Jan 8-15, 2024, book previously read

40ArlieS
Editado: Jan 15, 4:58 pm

7. The cat's meow : how cats evolved from the Savanna to your sofa by Jonathan B. Losos

This is an excellent book about domestic cats and their nearest relatives, written by an evolutionary biologist who works with lizards, but happens to love cats.

It covers the sort of topics you'd expect such an author to be interested in. When were cats domesticated? From which species? Did this happen more than once? How different are they, genetically, from their wild relatives? How much have they interbred with those relatives, producing a modern wild form different from the ancestral form?

Where did the many different cat colours come from? How do pet cats behave when allowed outside? What about unowned domestic cats? What about related species? Do they need outside access to have a truly good life? If so, can one reduce one's pets' predation of other species? How?

There's some fairly lengthy discussion of cat breeding, some simply trying for a changed appearance (e.g. the "toyger") and some breeding other small cats (servals, leopard cats) into the domestic cat line (producing the "savannah" and the "bengal"). Also various breeds deriving from genetic accidents that someone decided should be preserved and made into a breed (the American Curl, the Sphynx, the Munchkin, and more).

It continues with discussion of feline behaviour, distinguishing between pets allowed outdoors, unowned cats, and species related to domestic cats, complete with lots of information on how this can be studied.

Overall, a lovely book for someone who loves cats and also loves science.

I'll be looking out for anything else this author produces.

Statistics:
- non-fiction, biology, series: n/a, 2023
- Author: male, American, born 1961, academic (evolutionary biology, herpetology), author previously read
- English, public library, 390 pages, 4 stars
- read Jan 4-15, 2024, book not previously read

This book was recommended to me by LibraryThing's new recommendation system.

41ArlieS
Editado: Jan 20, 4:36 pm

8. Organizing for the rest of us : 100 realistic strategies to keep any house under control by Dana K. White

This is a decluttering and housekeeping book, by an author I'd already read. I happened to see it on the new books shelf at a local library, recognized the author, and decided to borrow it in the hopes it might work as a bit of a pep talk, to restart my somewhat stalled decluttering project.

There wasn't much new to me in the book, but I didn't expect any, having already read the author's Decluttering at the Speed of Life. It was however, enjoyable light reading, funny in places, and got me restarted, though only to the point of continuing my decades long effort to catalog all my books. (That effort has morphed over time; it started as "what a wonderful huge library I have; let's display it," with a side order of "and not accidentally repurchase books I already own." Now I'm much more likely to ask myself "will I ever want to read that book again", and deaccession it if the answer is clearly "Hell, No".)

It's a decent book, but if you can read only one of this author's books, and if your primary problem is too much stuff, not inadequate housekeeping, you should probably read Decluttering at the Speed of Life instead.

Statistics:
- non-fiction, practical self help, series: n/a, 2022
- Author: female, American , age unknown (has kids at home), blogger, author of my #29 for 2023
- English, public library, 215 pages, 3 stars
- read Jan 6-17, 2024, book not previously read

42klobrien2
Jan 18, 5:59 pm

>41 ArlieS: I have this book home from the library! I've only read a few pages, but I think it will be a good fit for me. And I'll also look into obtaining a copy of "Decluttering," too!

Karen O.

43ArlieS
Editado: Jan 20, 5:04 pm

9. Persian fire : the first world empire and the battle for the West by Tom Holland

This is a non-fiction retelling of the history of Persian invasion of Ancient Greece, with some lead-up describing earlier Persian history. I'd hoped it would be a bit more Persian focussed than it turned out to be; books retelling that bit of classical history are common, and I've already read some.

I selected it from new Library Things recommendations in the history genre, which had received the tag "war" - the best formula I could find for finding books suitable for the War Room challenge that I had a decent chance of liking. (90% of everything is drek; reading random books that matched the challenge constraints seemed likely to result in more DNFs than enjoyment.)

As it happens, the book won the Runciman Award, so it also qualifies for the Non-Fiction challenge for January.

I found this book "ok" but not great. I knew that hard data is scarce this early in history, with many authors long after the events they claim to report; historians disagree about just about everything. Yet this book just described what happened; any mention of disagreement was relegated to the footnotes.

Worse, perhaps, I read it shortly after another book with overlapping coverage: The Bronze Lie: Shattering the Myth of Spartan Warrior Supremacy, which was my #3 for the year. There were significant divergences between the two accounts, noticeable even with my elderly person's weakened memory for details; I imagine I'd have noticed a lot more if I'd read these two back to back as a 20 year old. And to put the icing on the inconsistency cake, I'm also regularly reading a blog called "A collection of mitigated pedantry," focussed on ancient era warfare, with emphasis on practical details.

The other thing I noticed, was that the author wrote as if he knew how lots of people actually felt. Much of the time, they felt what I presume the author would have felt, in like circumstances, given his modern upbringing. I'm not so sure Spartan youth really would have had the same feelings about the prospect of a relationship with an older man. (Other cases where he describes feelings, he may be getting them from ancient sources - which of course may themselves have been more inventive than accurate. I can't tell without more research than I want to do.)

On the other hand, I learned things I didn't previously know. I was particularly struck by the shortness of the period of Athenian democracy, particularly democracy in combination with significant power. And I'd like to know more about whether there were indeed _relatively recent_ changes in the treatment of respectable Athenian women, in the generation or two before and including these events.

Bottom line: you could do worse. But I would probably have done better to read any of the relevant ancient authors, even though I'd have to read them in translation.

Statistics:
- non-fiction, history, series: n/a, 2005
- Author: male, British, born 1968, author and popular historian, author previously read
- English, public library, 418 pages, 3 stars
- read Jan 6-19, 2024, book not previously read

44ChrisG1
Jan 20, 10:21 pm

>43 ArlieS: I've enjoyed a couple of Holland's other books, but yours is not the first luke-warm review of this one, so I expect I'll pass on it.

45Berly
Jan 21, 1:49 am

Popping in to say Hi! and praise your excellent reviews and enjoy the conversations they provoke. And the reminder that I want to clean out and organize my laundry room closet. Maybe tomorrow....Happy weekend!

46ArlieS
Jan 21, 3:40 pm

>42 klobrien2: Enjoy!

>44 ChrisG1: I've read some good reviews of it too, so probably a matter of taste as much as anything.

>45 Berly: Hi Berly. Thank you for the compliment; FWIW I really like writing them.

Good luck with the cleaning and organizing. I've let myself get sucked into an online game, and my decluttering has really suffered. But games always eventually get boring, so I'll be back to decluttering eventually.

47ArlieS
Jan 22, 5:17 pm

10. The Tide of Victory by Eric Flint and David Drake

This is volume 5 of the Belisarius alternate history series, which I am happily rereading. It continues to provide a nice fix of justified heroic violence, complete with an astonishingly brilliant (and lucky) hero, whom readers can imagine themselves being, however implausibly.

Statistics:
- fiction, alternate history, series (not first), 2001
- Author 1 (Eric Flint): male, American, born 1947, novelist, author of my #1, #4, and #6 for this year
- Author 2 (David Drake): male, American, born in 1945, novelist , author of my #1, #4, and #6 for this year
- English, own shelves, 561 pages, 4 stars
- read Jan 15-20, 2024, book previously read

48ArlieS
Editado: Fev 7, 8:46 pm

11. Moon of the crusted snow : a novel by Waubgeshig Rice

What do you do when over a period of a few days at the beginning of winter, first cell phone service, then power lines, and then land and satellite phones all go dark, with no explanation? Sure, such things are fragile, and outages are not uncommon, on a native reservation in northern Ontario, but they don't normally all go out at once. Is this an unusually bad glitch, or has something happened to the technological infrastructure?

This is a post-apocalyptic novel, set on a native reservation in Northern Ontario. This is not just a setting; the story is very much about Anishinaabe, not generic Canadians. This matters; without that specificity, it would just be yet another apocalypse story. The story covers only a few months, ending the winter it began, except for an epilogue set about 2 years later. We never find out what happened, though we do learn that the nearest large community - neither very large nor very near - had the same experience.

The reservation is far better placed to handle this situation than less remote communities. Their connection with the electric grid is new; they still have their old generators in case of problems, and enough oil on hand to run them for several months, if people conserve electricity. Homes are heated with wood, which is plentiful locally, not expensive fuels which would need to be shipped in. It's normal for the one road into the community to be impassable in the winter, so supplies are stockpiled. And many of the locals get a lot of their meat by hunting; farmed meat from the south is expensive.

This is not a typical post-apocalyptic novel. We don't have a heroic and brilliant leader taking charge. We don't have massive conflicts with refugees bent on looting or conquest. And no one's trying to reestablish or preserve technological civilization. (Instead, people mostly figure that the best way to survive is to substitute older ways for those no longer available.)

Also, essentially everyone agrees that they are all in it together. Band leadership takes for granted that its job is to help everyone survive this crisis. (Our viewpoint character is one of their employees, whose responsibilities in winter include running a snow plough. He also spends time visiting those needing assistance, e.g. tending one old lady's wood furnace. And this winter, he also finds himself distributing band supplies to those who don't have adequate stock piles.)

Problems are, I suspect, those you'd expect in this sort of community. Alcohol has been banned for years, but still gets brought in. The chief doesn't like disappointing people, let alone being a heavy. There are lots of people making a career of living on welfare, without much in the way of useful skills, native or western; one is the viewpoint character's younger brother.

Native customs are lovingly described. We see individual efforts to preserve their language, and teach their children to speak it better than their parents. Lots of Anishinaabe words are used in the text; by the end of the novel the reader will have learned a few of them.

A certain absence of macho is notable - what macho we encounter comes from outsiders, who ultimately become problems requiring violent solutions. The locals - especially the viewpoint character - deal with such people by working against them as a team, rather than by individual challenges. One might say that the viewpoint character offers a far better model of manhood than we see from problematic white outsiders. (And we see him carefully presented as quite manly, in a series of little details.)

Overall, a good story, that benefits a lot from getting out of the usual post-apocalyptic groove rut. Some aspects of plot and pacing could be improved, but not if that would be at the expense of the overall flavor, which it might have to be. And it would have been nice to follow the situation all the way to spring or beyond.

Statistics:
- fiction, post-apocalyptic, first of a series, 2018
- Author: male, Canadian (Anishinaabe), age unknown (graduated from university in 2002), author and journalist, author not previously read
- English, public library, 218 pages, 4 stars
- read Jan 21-22, 2024, book not previously read

I'm pretty sure I read this book because someone in the 2023 incarnation of this group read either this book or its sequel, and described it in ways that caused me to look for it. (I.e. a book bullet.) But I don't remember who it was.

49ArlieS
Editado: Jan 24, 5:19 pm

12. Eve : how the female body drove 200 million years of human evolution by Cat Bohannon

It appears that an evolutionary view of human female biology was a popular topic with publishers in 2023. This is the second such book I've read in the past two months, both published in 2023. The first one, A Brief History of the Female Body: An Evolutionary Look at How and Why the Female Form Came to Be was somewhat disappointing; I'd hoped this one would be better; instead, both are flawed but in different ways.

This book is structured based on a series of human biological attributes, some uniquely female, and others simply differing statistically between the sexes. Each one is associated with a key stage - either when the feature first appeared, or when it reached some particular human-like stage. For each of these, there is an example species, ideally the one first showing the feature, if we know which that was, that's referred to as the "Eve" of that feature. Presentation of that Eve is somewhat fictionalized, with little vignettes of relevant parts of the life of a female member of that species. These are arranged in temporal order.

There's lots of good information, particularly for the early changes, such as lactation. The book has footnotes, unlike A Brief History of the Female Body. (Both have lengthy bibliographies.)

The emphasis between the two books differ; thus for example A Brief History discusses many details of human and other primate placentas, while Eve stays at such a high level that I might have missed the point without having read A Brief History. (Human placentas are especially invasive, leading to a whole slew of potential medical problems that other primates mostly lack. Other species with similarly invasive placentas aren't especially near us on the evolutionary tree.)

Bohannon spends some time complaining about insufficient scientific attention to females, including doing most drug trials with only male subjects, unless of course the medication in question is for a uniquely female problem. This goes a lot farther than "we don't know the answer to this question because it hasn't been researched". She also spends a lot of time trying to explain that human females get a raw deal from evolution, as do many other females. She tries to combat various popular myths of evolution-based male-female differences, while at the same time producing other myth candidates. This got old. I don't want a side order of politics with my biology.

By the end of the book, the author advances a theory for the origin of patriarchy. Reading this, I found myself wishing she'd drop the politics and go back to talking about science. I don't need a feminist reworking of The Naked Ape, or anything remotely like it. Just so stories belong in the fiction section, and the more politics you mix into your science, the more the actual science gets crowded out.

The actual science appears to be reliable, though I'm surprised by the age of some of the works in the bibliography. She brought in things I'd never heard of.

But the final chapter, somewhat mis-titled "Love", would have been a lot better titled something like "Sex Roles and Other Bad Things", subtitled "with arguments for why they were once evolutionary valuable but now work in reverse". Better still it could have been omitted, or rewritten to be shorter, more research based, and more tightly focussed on relationships of sex/parenting.

Statistics:
- non-fiction, biology, series: n/a, 2023
- Author: female, American(?), age unknown (undergrad degree 2009), writer, author not previously read
- English, public library, 612 pages, 4 stars
- read Jan 12-24, 2024, book not previously read

50quondame
Jan 25, 3:07 am

>49 ArlieS: My sister set up a political action committee which got a law enacted to require women's inclusion in medical studies. As she worked the US-HHS coordinating funding for fertility research it all had to be very indirect, but she'd be very quick to affirm that biology is a deeply politicized field.

51ArlieS
Jan 25, 3:15 pm

>50 quondame: Sad but true: politics gets into everything, even when there's an ideology of objectivity, neutrality, or just-the-facts.

Of course there are multiple types of politics, which I'll divide into "office politics" ("fund MY proposal", "put ME in charge"), basic partisan politics ("vote for Joe Schmoo; he's a local boy and will get resources for his supporters/local needs"), and ideological conflict.

I personally stayed out of science knowing that my talents did not run to "soft skills" of any kind, but particularly those needed for office/partisan politics; it was obvious to me even as a STEM undergraduate in the late 1970s that being good at research was insufficient for a career as a scientist.

But it's the ideological politics that really makes me mad - and I don't read for the purpose of becoming angry and upset. Political ideologies are full of beliefs about biology, which they require "science" to support - or failing that, to avoid investigating. I'm interested in truth, not "facts" supporting any ideology. (Obviously, I have my own biases, but this is something I want less of, not more.)

None of this implies that your sister was wrong to work to have medical research actually produce information directly applicable to populations other than adult males, rather than simply presuming there are no gender interactions, contra-indications, etc. etc. - or that women's health basically doesn't matter.

I just don't want to devote much of my time to thinking about those battles. I'm misanthropic enough already ;-(

52PaulCranswick
Jan 25, 9:13 pm

>51 ArlieS: I agree on the sad but true business of the pervasiveness of politics into every facet of our existence, Arlie. Many of the values I previously thought were universal have been denuded over the last generation and I am not making a party political point because I think all parts of the spectrum take a share of blame in this.

53ArlieS
Jan 26, 4:11 pm

13. Defensive Signaling at Bridge by David Lyster Bird

This is a book for intermediate bridge players, teaching - or at least describing - techniques for handling a particular aspect of playing duplicate bridge - in this case, communication with one's partner while on defense. My partner and I don't use most of these techniques, rather to the detriment of our play, so sometime last year this book got onto out list of things to read and discus soon. We picked this book on the topic primarily because I already owned it.

That didn't work out too well. My records tell me I started the book on July 27 last year, and made it only through page 40. My partner preferred other topics, which gave me an excuse to distract myself from a book that's still mostly over my head. In particular, while I can understand and memorize the techniques, the examples go farther than rote application - mostly sailing over my head considering details I hadn't even noticed. The quizzes are similar - lots of considerations discussed in the answer key, many of which I didn't notice.

That said, this is a good book. We can implement the basics now, and revisit the book in a year or five, when we've got the experience to understand more of the exceptions and extra considerations. (It wouldn't be the first book we've found useful to reread as our play improved.)

The author is not quite as good at explaining the reasons for things as my all time favorite bridge authors, Barbara Seagram and Audrey Grant. He expects the reader to do a bit more of the work than I can currently manage, on this particular subject. But he's better than most bridge authors.

Statistics:
- non-fiction, bridge game, series: n/a, 2011
- Author: male, British, born in 1948, writer, author previously read
- English, own shelves, 249 pages, 4 stars
- read Jan 6-25, 2024, book not previously read

54ArlieS
Jan 26, 4:30 pm

I have reached a milestone of sorts - if I can average 13 books per month, I can reach 2 * 75 books for the year. I've reached that target for January with 5 days to go, and 6 books in flight.

Several of those books were acquired for the January war room challenge, and I still haven't acquired any books for the February war room challenge. That thread's not up yet, but the 2023 planning thread at https://www.librarything.com/topic/355667 says the topic will be the American War of Independence.

I expect to have some difficulty finding much that I care about - it's a much smaller topic than the Ancients (Greeks, Romans, etc.), and less inherently interesting to me. I know the basic outline - it's hard to get through grade school without learning that, even in Canada, and have read other relevant material since then, so yet another narrative history would probably bore me.
I doubt there's much room for a new take on any part of it. I wonder if I can find anything about the French contribution to the American success, or some other side issue.

Of course I could simply skip February, and head straight to March with the Wars of the Roses. Given how late I am selecting books, I might in any case not have newly selected ones on hand until it's almost March.

55ArlieS
Jan 26, 5:30 pm

List of American Revolution books recommended to me by the *new* LibraryThing recommendation system, selecting "all time", history genre, and the tag "war".

1776 by David McCullough
The British are Coming by Rich Atkinson
Patriots: The Men Who Started the American Revolution by A. J. Langguth
Scars of Independence: America's Violent Birth by Holger Hoock
Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 by Robert Middlekauff
American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804 by Alan Taylor

I've made no attempt at filtering these, given that the list is short, and it's likely that not all are available from local libraries.

56ArlieS
Jan 29, 6:34 pm

14. The Dance of Time by Eric Flint and David Drake

This is the 6th and final volume of the Belisarius alternate history series. Like the earlier volumes, it provided a nice fix of justified heroic violence. The plausibility seems to me to decrease as the series progressed - even peripheral characters now seem to me to have superhuman abilities and luck, but this is, after all, a tradition in stories of this kind. Nonetheless, the 13 year old boy's martial abilities were, shall we say, "a bit much".

On the other hand, at least one of the other books I have in flight is prone to much the same thing, though played as humor, and it's not interfering with my enjoyment there either.

Statistics:
- fiction, alternate history, series (not first), 2007
- Author 1 (Eric Flint): male, American, born 1947, novelist, author of my #1, #4, #6 and #10 for this year
- Author 2 (David Drake): male, American, born in 1945, novelist , author of my #1, #4, #6 and #10 for this year
- English, own shelves, 655 pages, 4 stars
- read Jan 20-27, 2024, book previously read

57ArlieS
Editado: Jan 29, 6:50 pm

I've added one more to my list of books to possibly read for the February installment of the War Room challenge: Washington and Caesar by Christian Cameron. This is a novel set in the American revolutionary war, written by someone my sister knows, who is an avid war re-enactor. One of the viewpoint characters is a slave who enlists on the anti-revolutionary side, presumably after escaping his master. With the author being a re-enactor, I imagine many technical details will be correct.

Meanwhile, I'm still reading several books suitable for the January installment, and not really expecting to finish any of them in the next 3 days. These include:
- Pax Romana by Adrian Goldsworthy
- Roman Warfare by Adrian Goldsworthy
- The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World by Adrienne Mayor

Also on hand:

- Carthage must be destroyed by Richard Miles

Finally, if I'm willing to really stretch a point. These bandes dessinées are set in Gaul during the Roman empire. I borrowed them primarily to practice my French, but one could argue they qualify as fiction featuring war (or at least small scale combat) in the Ancient world.

- Astérix et les Normands by René Goscinny
- Le fils d'Astérix by Albert Uderzo

58ArlieS
Editado: Jan 31, 9:04 pm

15. Roman warfare by Adrian Keith Goldsworthy

This is a decent book by a historian, about exactly what the title says: Roman warfare and the Roman military, as they developed and changed over time. It's part of a series about warfare in different times and places. I read it for the January installment of the War Room challenge.

I didn't like it as much as I liked the same author's How Rome fell: death of a superpower, which I read last May, or as much as I like his Pax Romana, which I'm two thirds of the way through. That's pretty much because this book is just conveying the generally agreed upon facts, not expressing somewhat original - or at least contested - ideas. That fits with it being part of a series; it's not written for someone who's spent the past month reading several books with overlapping material, with others over the past decade(s). But for what it does, it's good.

Statistics:
- non-fiction, history, series: n/a, 2000
- Author: male, British , born 1969, historian and novelist (no university affiliation; looks like he dropped out of academia after 10 years), author of my #41 for 2023
- English, public library, 240 pages, 3 stars
- read Jan 25-31, 2024, book not previously read

59ArlieS
Editado: Fev 2, 5:45 pm

16. Astérix et les Normands by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo

This is one of a series of French bandes dessinées (graphic novels/comics) written for children. They have been translated into many languages, complete with new puns replacing those that only work in French. (Many characters have names that are essentially punny.) I read (possibly reread) this one in French to practice my French skills, which were at one time quite good.

I first encountered this series in childhood, in both English and French. They were funny enough - and simple enough - that I could make out the French I was then trying to learn, or failing that, read the French original and the English translation side by side. Later, while learning German, I tried reading Astérix comics in that language.

These stories are funny, and much can be understood from the illustrations, making them great for language learners. They are especially suitable for children, being full of comic violence, and also having a fair amount of repetition. But they are still funny even to a retired adult, and much less work to read than a Real Novel (TM).

The series is set during the Roman period, with Gaul (i.e. France) being a Roman province. One village remains unconquered, thanks to the magic potion brewed by its Druid, which gives the tribal warriors superhuman strength. The Romans aren't particularly trying to conquer it, so the tribesmen, particularly the two main characters, have time for all kinds of adventures.

In this episode, another tribal chieftain sends his son to stay in the village, in the hopes they'll "make a man of him". At the same time, a group of Normans, who have no personal knowledge of fear, decide they want to learn, and take ship to the same local area. The visiting young man is music mad, in the way of a rebellious youth, particularly one of the decade in which the book was published - nothing the adults appreciate, and very loud. He's also a complete coward, which makes the Normans decide to capture him and demand that he teach them about/how to fear.

The local chief sends Astérix and his sidekick Obélix to rescue the youngster and "persuade" the Normans to depart. Plenty of slapstick comic violence ensues, but doesn't solve either problem. Then Astérix has a bright idea, and arranges for another tribesman to terrify the Normans in a totally non-violent way. He has the village bard - a notoriously tuneless incompetent - perform at the Norman camp. They are soon terrified that he will continue to sing.

Statistics:
- fiction, graphic novel, juvenile, series (not first), 1967
- Author (Réne Goscinny): male, French, born 1926, comic editor and writer, author previously read
- Illustrator (Albert Uderzo): male, French, born in 1927, comic book artist and scriptwriter , illustrator previously read
- English, public library, 48 pages, 3 stars
- read Jan 23-31, 2024, book may have been previously read (presuming not)

60klobrien2
Fev 2, 7:06 pm

>59 ArlieS: Great review of the Asterix! I read the series (in English translation, of course) at least twice (I really liked it). Very funny comics, for both kids and adults, I think.

Have a great weekend!

Karen O

61ArlieS
Editado: Fev 5, 6:46 pm

>60 klobrien2: I owned a few of them as a child, but they disappeared somewhere along the way - most likely left at my family home, and gotten rid of when my mother eventually down-sized. I'm sometimes tempted to replace them, but I too should be downsizing in my current life phase, not acquiring ever more stuff.

62ArlieS
Fev 5, 7:20 pm

17. Pax romana : war, peace and conquest in the roman world by Adrian Keith Goldsworthy

This book discusses the experience of being absorbed into the Roman sphere of influence, and continuing within it, with emphasis on differences as well as similarities. The focus is on coercion and violence, as experienced by free people, outside of Rome itself. This includes both "allies" - always subordinate to Rome - and residents of Roman provinces. Topics includes conquest, rebellions, brigandage, government, and more.

It is a good book, but one I'm finding very hard to summarize. Roman administration changed over time. In general, local customs were maintained, including local elites being in charge of just about everything. They could be overruled by governors, who themselves could be overruled by emperors. And a few decisions were kept outside the scope of local leaders - for example, justice involving Roman citizens. But mostly things went on as they always had.

Roman conquest could be vicious and bloodthirsty, but they were also often willing to accept those who surrendered and treat them well. And many tribes, towns, etc., eagerly sought out the status of allies of Rome. Often - perhaps usually - this was in response to their own ambitions - if we join Rome, and out local rival does not, Rome might just crush them for us. If I push for joining Rome, and other candidates for chieftain do not, perhaps the Romans will help me take over as chieftain.

From the point of view of middling sorts, life might be better without constant intertribal raiding, not to mention wars for the succession within the tribe. Rome might even help deal with brigands, if the local leaders couldn't manage it on their own. The actual conquest might be bad - if it was a conquest, rather than a case of the elites eagerly signing up as allies. But after that, life might be safer.

On the other hand, there was no way to stop all raiding and brigandage. The best that could be managed might be to catch up to retreating raiders, slowed by loot. Their subsequent defeat might prevent that particular lot from coming back, and discourage others for a time, but wouldn't do anything for civilians killed during the raid. (Goods and captives were, however, sometimes recaptured and returned to their owners and families.)

And the Romans had their own civil wars, which drew off troops who'd otherwise be defending the borders, or hunting down brigands.

What I liked about this book was that it focussed on a theme, rather than simply being a narrative history. It brought a lot of material together in one place. It left me feeling that I had some idea of the actual role of a Roman governor and the problems he faced ... complete with changes to this in different eras.

I read this book for the January installment of the War Room challenge, focussed on the wars of the Ancients - Romans, Greeks, etc.

Statistics:
- non-fiction, history, series: n/a, 2016
- Author: male, British , born 1969, historian and novelist (no university affiliation; looks like he dropped out of academia after 10 years), author of my #15 for this year
- English, public library, 513 pages, 4 stars
- read Jan 21-Feb 5, 2024, book not previously read

63ArlieS
Fev 7, 8:37 pm

18. To serve them all my days by Ronald Frederick Delderfield

This is the latest book of fiction I've reread as comfort reading when half awake or otherwise under par.

This one's an old friend, chronicling the story of a schoolmaster at a British boarding school from late in World War I to well into World War II.

Statistics:
- fiction, historical fiction, non-series, 1972
- Author (Ronald Frederick Delderfield): male, British, born 1912, novelist, author previously read (this book)
- English, own shelves, 572 pages, 5 stars
- read Jan 28-Feb 6, 2024, book previously read

64Owltherian
Fev 7, 8:38 pm

Hi, I'm Owl, i dont think we have met yet!

65ArlieS
Fev 7, 8:48 pm

>64 Owltherian: I don't think we have either. Welcome to my thread. May your 2024 be filled with excellent reading.

66Owltherian
Fev 7, 8:49 pm

>65 ArlieS: Your always welcome in my thread as well, not many people have visited but people are always welcome. May your 2024 be filled with plentiful reads and fun.

67Berly
Fev 13, 12:11 am

>59 ArlieS: I am a fan of Asterix and have copies on both French and English. My kids read them in French immersion school when they were little. Always fun. : )

68ArlieS
Fev 14, 11:55 am

>67 Berly: I've got another one waiting for me, from the same library run.

69ArlieS
Fev 14, 12:00 pm

I think I've overdone the book borrowing. I'd have to read 146 pages per day for the next 2 or 3 months to read everything I've borrowed on time before it's due back at its library, and that doesn't account for the possibility of someone putting a hold on something, preventing me from renewing it again.

One result of this is that I'm miles behind on everyone's threads; another is that I've finished two books but not yet written about them here.

Meanwhile, life keeps interfering with my reading plans.

70klobrien2
Fev 14, 12:05 pm

>69 ArlieS: Good morning! I hear you about feeling swamped with borrowed books. It doesn’t help when the library seems to fill a lot of requests at the same time. I suppose they do have a lot of new books come in to them at once, but it throws off any reading plans. Oh, well, maybe our motto should be, “Keep calm and keep reading!”

Have a lovely day!

Karen O

71ArlieS
Editado: Fev 14, 4:06 pm

19. A Name to Conjure With by Donald Aamodt

This is the latest in my morning comfort rereads, but with a slight twist. Before my borrowed book heap exploded, I'd thought it would be a great idea to read through all my fiction, alphabetically by author, in part to decide whether there are any I shouldn't have bothered keeping. This is the first book of that reading cycle.

This book is in the fantasy sub-genre where a present-day, modern human is transported to a fantasy world, find that they have new abilities in that world, often unusually powerful ones, and proceed to have adventures. (Can anyone think of a good name for that sub-genre? I'd like to classify my reading a bit more clearly than just "fantasy".) Thanks quondame, for giving me the name "portal fantasy".

This particular book works as an adventure of this type. The quest is successful, but not at what the organizer intended. Instead of simply robbing the villain, the team manages to expel the villain from the universe entirely, as the goddess working behind the scenes had intended. Since the villain is an evil deity that delights in torture and murder, this is an excellent heroic result, if perhaps a bit cliched.

Unfortunately, there's an extra feature to the story, which I rather dislike. The goddess who manipulated the adventurers is rather a selfish bitch. She has no scruples about coercing and deceiving people who are not her enemies, and particularly hates the idea of any limitation on her power. Everyone in the universe should obey her without question, not to mention worshipping her; given that level of dominance, she's rather benevolent, except when her own purposes make it useful to harm an underling. She's far better than the god she banished, who only helps people in the rare cases where that suits his greater purpose. But that doesn't make her good.

Unfortunately the magic that resolves the conflict and banishes the (more) evil deity, also links this goddess with the visitor from earth, giving them essentially equal power, and most likely making them ineffective unless they cooperate. She refuses to accept this, and does her best to convince/force her unwanted partner to become yet another obsequious worshipper. This provides a plot source for farther volumes, but her abusive behaviour is not something I want in my fantasy.

Statistics:
- fiction, portal fantasy (modern human with special powers in fantasy world), first of a series, 1989
- Author (Donald Aamodt): male, American, born 1935, novelist, author previously read (this book and another)
- English, own shelves, 265 pages, 3 stars
- read Feb 8-11, 2024, book previously read

72quondame
Fev 14, 3:10 pm

>71 ArlieS: It sounds like what is called a portal fantasy.

73ArlieS
Fev 14, 4:00 pm

>72 quondame: Thanks. I'd hoped there was a name, since it seems like a recognizable genre.

74ArlieS
Fev 15, 7:37 pm

20. The revolution of American conservatism; the Federalist Party in the era of Jeffersonian democracy by David Hackett Fischer

This is an early book by one of my favorite academic historians. It's a history of a small part of the development of politics in the United States; in particular, the transition from "the hoi polloi should vote for me, because I'm the right sort of (elite) person" to actual politicking, soliciting the votes of ordinary folk with perhaps somewhat better reasons than being their landlord, their employer, the richest person in the electoral district, or similar).

I should say first, that we're talking about the right wing side of the politics of the time - more elitist and more excited about public order than their rivals.

At the beginning of the period covered (or perhaps just before), they expect - and receive - so much deference from the non-elite that they tend to receive votes just for being important/elite/from the right family. They express a duty to do what's good for the country, which is likely presumed good for their voters - but have no idea whatsoever they should do what the voters explicitly want. After all, they understand themselves as being far more likely to make good decisions than the little folk. Any political arguments they make are addressed to their own peers.

On the good side, it doesn't generally occur to them to deceive the voters. Voters are supposed to respect elite opinions more than their own. And they mostly don't pretend to be "common people" themselves. Some of them moreover have a real sense of noblesse oblige.

At the end of the period, they are doing their best to emulate their rivals, with claimed respect for the electorate, loads of "news" sheets often full of lies, and all the rest of it, but chronically playing catch up with those rivals.

Overall, a good read, and another brick in my mental edifice that basically says "current dishonorable and asinine behaviour in US politics is anything other than unprecedented". But not as good as this author's later books; this one seems to be written for people a bit more specialized than I'd expect outside of a history or perhaps political science department. A wee bit of initial context would have been a great help.

Statistics:
- non-fiction, history, series: n/a, 1965
- Author: male, American, born 1935, academic (history), author of my #140 for 2023
- English, public library, 455 pages, 4 stars
- read Feb 2-13, 2024, book not previously read

75PaulCranswick
Fev 16, 6:03 pm

>74 ArlieS: That does look an interesting read, Arlie.

Have a great weekend.

76Berly
Fev 16, 7:17 pm

There! Now you should feel better. Two book reviews done (nice job!) and you can get back to reading your 146 pages/day. LOL. Happy Friday!

77drneutron
Fev 17, 8:19 am

Nice review - it may be a tough one to find, but I’ll keep it in mind.

79ArlieS
Fev 19, 7:06 pm

>76 Berly: I've been slipping on that goal somewhat, after an initial solid start - and the library now has two more ready for me to pick up.

But OTOH, I've finished two more books.

80ArlieS
Editado: Fev 19, 8:59 pm

21. Salvage Right by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

This is a science fiction novel with fantasy elements from the Liaden Universe Novels series. That series is "read on sight" for me, but the books range from "I loved it" down to "OK, and nice to get more of the story".

I think the difference has to do with my taste more than their quality. Series members range from comedies of manners and coming of age novels to stories of betrayal, failure and sacrifice, complete with foreshadowed doom. Plot development also ranges from clear and simple; through two groups seeing things very differently; to somewhat chaotic with too many characters with too little explanation of their relationships and history. I prefer the happy successful stories, and the ones where I know who is who within the first quarter of the book.

This book had a mostly positive outcome, but too much in the way of negative expectations and history. And it desperately needed a prologue recapping a bit of the relevant history; I thought I'd read everything previously published, yet basically did not remember the relevant set up.

Because of this, the first half of the book dragged, until I finally understood who was who, who was working for what organization, and which organizations were Big Baddies (TM). After that it got better, and there were many of the lighter plot elements common to the series, as well as the heavier themes. OTOH, I do remember the backstory of most of the characters other than the two central ones, as well as knowing much about the universe history associated with the series. I'm not sure the book would be readable for someone with no prior exposure to the series.

Statistics:
- fiction, science fiction, series (not first), 2023
- Author 1: female, American, born 1952, novelist, joint author of my #45, #48, and #82 for 2023
- Author 2: male, American, born 1950, novelist, joint author of my #45, #48, and #82 for 2023
- English, public library, 504 pages, 3.5 stars
- read Jan 25-Feb 15, 2024, book not previously read

81ronincats
Editado: Fev 19, 10:55 pm

>80 ArlieS: I also have the Lee & Miller Liaden books on my "read on sight" list, but as the story lines add more relevant characters, it can be confusing. Salvage Right basically wraps up a number of dangling threads from Neogenesis, and I was able to recall that. However, when Trader's Leap came out, I started reading backwards to find the precursor, and it was a whole 4 novels back in Alliance of Equals! At least I got to do a lot of good rereading.

ETA the eARC of Ribbon Dance will be available March 15, hardback on June 4, That's the sequel to Trader's Leap.

82ArlieS
Editado: Fev 20, 3:15 pm

>81 ronincats: Aha. That explains it. I remember approximately nothing from Neogenesis, and LibraryThing thinks I haven't read it. (I read a couple of Liaden novels in omnibus books, and LT doesn't seem to know the contains/contained by relationships. This might be such a case, or I might simply never have read it.)

--edit to add: after checking contents of omnibus editions, I don't think I've actually read Neogenesis

83ArlieS
Fev 20, 3:14 pm

>82 ArlieS: I checked. LibraryThings has the contains/contained by relationships correct, but doesn't use the data to show e.g. what members of the series I've read - if I read (or own) it in an omnibus, it doesn't show as read/owned on the series page.

I filed a suggestion for site improvements.

I also mentally designed a script that would add all the contents of all my omnibus editions to one or more special collections of "phantom books". Fortunately I'm probably not motivated enough to write it; it would probably create notable load on the server. And of course I'd make any such script available to anyone else who wanted to run it.

84ronincats
Fev 20, 8:47 pm

Well, that certainly explains why you found Salvage Rights confusing, since it is almost entirely based on events in Neogenesis.

85ArlieS
Fev 20, 10:17 pm

>84 ronincats: The good news is that I should be able to get Neogenesis from the local library.

86ArlieS
Fev 21, 12:40 pm

22. Carthage must be destroyed : the rise and fall of an ancient civilization by Richard Miles

This is a history of Carthage, consulting archaeology as well as ancient writings, and starting before Carthage's founding, not merely focussed on its doomed conflict with Rome. I borrowed it to read for the war room challenge in January, didn't get to it that month, and was thinking of returning it to the library unread. But when I picked it up to see what I would be missing, I liked it enough to decide to read it late.

From my point of view - already fairly familiar with ancient writings - the parts of the book informed by archaeology were the high points. The parts informed by ancient writings had less that was new to me. I also very much appreciated the combined approach.

Statistics:
- non-fiction, history, series: n/a, 2011
- Author: male, British, born 1969, academic (history, archaeology), author not previously read
- English, public library, 521 pages, 4 stars
- read Feb 7-19, 2024, book not previously read

87ArlieS
Fev 21, 2:21 pm

23. The Amazons : lives and legends of warrior women across the ancient world by Adrienne Mayor

This is a book about women warriors in antiquity, in history, archaeology and myth. I borrowed it for the War Room challenge, January installment, but decided it doesn't really qualify.

The big problem with this book is that the author appears to be uncritically collecting and relating absolutely anything she can find that supports her basic thesis: women warriors really existed, and may have been as much as 30% of the fighting force of their societies. She compounds the appearance of uncritical collection by referring to all such warriors as Amazons, and assuring us that the societies which produced them were gender-egalitarian and allowed sexual freedom to everyone - women in particular. Moreover, a careless reader might conclude from the book that horse nomad societies always have women warriors, gender equality, and sexual freedom.

The good part of this book is that it provides pointers to suggestive evidence of all kinds, and a fair amount of detail about artistic representation of Amazons in Greek and Hellenistic sites. I imagine it's right to claim that some steppe peoples known to the Greeks included women skilled in horse archery, and were, by Ancient Greek standards, unimaginably gender egalitarian. (It's not hard to be a lot more gender egalitarian than ancient Athens, while still being quite sexist by modern or unbiased standards.) It's probably also right to claim that the ancient Chinese encountered at least travelers' tales of similar cultures, perhaps the same ones.

Beyond that, I fear this book is a rather sophisticated version of the bad kind of "feminist history", credulous if not imaginative. I can't prove that without developing expertise in relevant areas; there are other potential reasons for the elements that made me suspicious. The author's biography on Wikipedia suggests she's not just a flake with an axe to grind - she's got real academic qualifications and a position at a reputable university; moreover it's not in Women's Studies.

Statistics:
- non-fiction, history, series: n/a, 2014
- Author: female, American, born 1946, academic (history, folklore), author not previously read
- English, public library, 519 pages, 3 stars
- read Jan 23-Feb 20, 2024, book not previously read